But default on your car payment, and you can expect to have your car repossessed almost immediately. How is this possible? In a word, technology. The modern repo man uses a number of devices to find, track, disable and reclaim automobiles:
–Subprime loan underwriters often require borrowers to have their cars equipped with a device that allows the lender to remotely disable the ignition. GPS technology in the devices also lets a lender track a cars’ location and movements. Knowing where the vehicle is, and being able to remotely disable it, makes repossession a snap.
–Photographs are taken of “millions of plates a day, with scanners mounted on tow trucks and even on purpose-built camera cars whose sole mission is to drive around and collect plate scans. Each scan is GPS-tagged and stamped with the date and time, feeding a massive data trove to any law-enforcement agency—or government-approved private industry—willing to pay for it” according to Car & Driver magazine. The license-plate acquisition system called Vigilant, adds 100 million photos a month.
–License-plate-readers, or LPRs as they are known, are now commonly found at mall entrances, mounted on utility poles, parking lots, toll plazas, and at major highway entrances. According to the site Consumerist, the database of scanned license plates contains “over a billion sightings of individual cars ready for companies to mine.” One company, MVTRAC, has 8,000 fixed cameras, and many more mobile cameras mounted on vehicles, constantly scanning plates.
–Some repo companies are using drones to track vehicles and repossess cars; they also can track drivers via their own mobile phones…
This isn’t the first sign of the death of our privacy. HIPAA is a joke and our medical records are passed around like after-dinner mints. And it goes without saying that these technologies are easily abused and hacked into — not only by the government, but also by insurance companies and individuals looking to cause personal harm.
I’m sure some people think, well, I have nothing to hide. And if we can catch terrorists, then a loss of privacy isn’t a big deal.
Until these technologies are used to discriminate against you…